Blackhawks close out 6-1 circus trip with romp over Coyotes
By Mark Lazerus Staff Reporter November 30, 2013 9:40PM
Updated: November 30, 2013 11:50PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thirteen days and 1,800 miles removed from Chicago, the Blackhawks found themselves feeling oddly at home, their hotel swarmed by jersey-wearing fans lining the halls, lurking in the common areas, and lingering in the elevator lobbies. The largest crowd in Coyotes history, an evenly split 17,321 — a number bolstered by both the home team’s strong start and the visiting team’s strong drawing power — packed Jobing.com Arena.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had more fans than them,” Brandon Bollig said. “It’s crazy. It’s always like that here.”
What those fans saw was a first period in which the Hawks looked nothing like a team at the tail end of a grueling trip, then a second period in which the Hawks looked every bit like a team at the tail end of a grueling trip.
In the end, they saw a result that looked just like nearly all the others on the trip — a Hawks win.
The 5-2 victory on Saturday was the Hawks’ sixth straight since they dropped the first game of the trip in Colorado. Their 6-1-0 record is believed to be the Hawks’ best record ever on the annual circus trip. Only last year’s 4-0-2 mark on the ice-show trip can even compare.
Rookie goalie Antti Raanta made 31 saves for his second career victory in as many starts, and Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith each had two points.
“It’s a long time to be away from home, but for us to hang in there and focus on hockey and worry about our jobs and what we had to do, it was good to see,” Kane said. “It didn’t start off the way we wanted, but it definitely finished the way we wanted.”
Coming off two straight sluggish starts in Calgary and Dallas, the Hawks came out flying in the first period, jumping out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Kane, Andrew Shaw and Niklas Hjalmarsson in what coach Joel Quenneville deemed their best first period of the season.
Keith had an assist on each of the first two goals, giving him a seven-game point streak. He has at least a point in 17 of his last 20 games, and has 23 assists on the season — the same amount as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. And Raanta was strong from the start, having much less difficulty controlling his emotions in this one than in his first start on Wednesday against the Flames.
“It was much easier to play today than in Calgary,” he said.
Even the Hawks didn’t expect to have so much energy at the start.
“I’ll tell you what, I was surprised,” Bollig said. “Most of us didn’t get to bed until after 3 or 4 o’clock this morning [after playing in Dallas on Friday night and immediately flying to Phoenix]. It’s not ideal when that happens. It’s nice that we came out and had plenty of energy and popped three goals in the first.”
But the Coyotes flipped the script in the second, outshooting the Hawks 17-7 and dominating play. Former Hawks prospect Rob Klinkhammer got Phoenix on the board, then Martin Hanzal cut the Hawks lead to 3-2 with a power-play goal.
But Bollig ripped a shot in the top inside corner of the net midway through the third period to give the Hawks some breathing room, and Hossa added an empty-netter to close out a sweet circus trip and make for a happy late-night flight back to Chicago.
“We loved the trip,” Quenneville said. “The consistency is what we’re appreciating, and the energy and the enthusiasm in the locker room and on the bench is as good as we’ve seen it here. It’s been very positive.”